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JEARRARD'S HERBAL




12th July 2015

Leptospermum 'Apple Blossom'
There is something peculiar about breakfast that extinguishes all other thought. I am sitting facing a screen of the weeks wonders, ready to write, and all I can find in my mind is the curious taste and damp-cardboard bite of the bowl of cornflakes in front of me (the crunch they promised has long since left the bowl). I would like to say that every bowl of cornflakes I remember has induced the same blank mindless state at the start of the day, but the truth is, I don't remember them. It is the sort of trance that allows you to read the back of the box as though it were interesting and accept without any qualm the list of ingredients you are eating.
Some years ago I planted a shrub border and have endured several years of juvenility. This spring it has finally stopped looking ridiculous, at least in parts. Plants have grown enough to fill some of the space, and have started to flower. Leptospermum 'Apple Blossom' has become a cloud of pale pink blooms. As a young plant it has survived a couple of harsh winters, so I hope it will be hardy enough to make a splash for a few years yet. I look at it in the same cornflake trance. Thirty years ago there were a similar range of Leptospermum being promoted but I don't see them in gardens any more. They were described as 'hardy' as well. In the evening sunshine yesterday this was a thing of wonder, free of all fault, and that is how I will think of it, at least until the coffee kicks in.




12th July 2015

Neomarica fluminensis
The warm weather has continued this week, with the occasional moist cloud to darken the skies. There was light rain falling as I opened the back door this morning, the sort that makes me think of summer holidays and people wearing plastic macs and shorts. Tent-pitching weather.
I have a strange involvement with the iris family. I admire the flowers, the colour and distinctive shape but I rarely find myself transported with wonder. Neomarica is a small genus of moisture loving plants from Central and South America. The flowers are borne on the end of scapes that are flattened like the leaves and almost indistinguishable from them until the buds appear. New plantlets form at their tips and root as they touch the ground, leading to the common name Walking Iris.
Neomarica fluminensis comes from a small region of Brazil on the Atlantic coast around Rio de Janiero. There are a couple of very similar species in the area and identification is not easy. This came to me as N. fluminensis and seems to fit the description but is darker in flower than pictures on the internet show. It may be a form of N. caerulea which is more variable and has a wider distribution in Brazil.
It grows in the greenhouse and I do my best to protect it during winter - the genus is more tropical than the distinctive "iris" flowers might suggest. Many years ago I grew my first Neomarica caerulea and paid it very little heed until a sharp winter killed it. Suddenly I was filled with a longing for it and have grown the genus ever since. I don't understand it, but I often go down to the greenhouse just to visit them and look at their leaves with a blank expression.
When George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest he is reported to have said "because it's there" and that is the best I can offer.




12th July 2015

Disa (some)
A couple of years ago I was looking around a garden in a sheltered hollow with a beautiful pond in the shade of some trees when an insect (unidentified, there were hordes) bit me on the back of the knee. It was extremely irritating. On the occasion of a later visit I took the precaution of wearing a long sleeved shirt and long trousers in a light summery material. An insect (still unidentified, still hordes) bit me on the bum. I was left wondering if my special arrangements had improved anything.
In the years before the advent of micropropagation all orchid hybrids were grown from seed, a long and expensive process. Orchid breeders were keen to sell all of the seedlings and needed a way of naming them. Seedlings from a particular cross were all given a grex name, despite their variability. If I cross Disa uniflora with the grex D. Foam, I get a new grex of seedlings, Disa Unifoam. Some particular clones have been selected from the grex and become cultivars. D. Unifoam 'Majestic' would be an example, a superior selected clone from a group of seedlings. This is a special arrangement for naming, only acceptable among orchids. Unfortunately special cases can end up biting you on the bum.
The picture shows some of my own Disa seedlings raised by crossing an unselected seedling of D. Unifoam with the selected clone D. Unifoam 'Majestic'. The intention was to explore the diversity that should occur in the second generation and look for "something interesting" (my usual rather vague criterion for selection).
I am left with a problem. Are the second generation still part of the Unifoam grex, or does the Unifoam x Unifoam hybrid require a new grex name? So far, I have been unable to find out. Grex naming in orchids is a special exception to the usual rules of nomenclature and poorly documented. I suspect that orchid growers are making it up as they go along. Pardon the phrase, but it will bug me.





12th July 2015

Corydalis 'Blackberry Wine'
I like to grow things and if I look for reasons I end up back in the company of George Mallory. However, once I grow a genus I like to grow as many of them as I can. Perhaps it is obsessiveness but I prefer to think of it as common sense. Every now and then you come accross a plant that is outstanding and it is always a surprise. I have never managed to predict which it will be but in every genus there seem to be one or two that stand head and shoulders above the rest. The only way you can find them is to grow them all and throw away the majority when they prove to be duds. I suppose it might be possible to read all the articles and listen to the commentators but imagine the mountains of drivel you would have to wade through to get there. Easier just to grow all the plants.
Corydalis have always struck me as a genus of duds but I have watched out of the corner of my eye in case something special appears unexpectedly. Unexpected is the word, because this is Geranium 'Rambling Robin'. At least, it is in there somewhere. It is being overwhelmed by a Corydalis that must have been included in the compost by accident at the nursery. When it first flowered I assumed it was a stray tuber of C. solida, a fascinating, variable and relatively easy plant that I am too kind to describe as a dud in print. I assumed it would die. Wrong again.
The unpredictable process of identification that accompanies an unknown plant has led me to suppose that this is C. 'Blackberry Wine', preferring cool shade, flowering in spring and possibly autumn and dying away if it becomes dry. It shouldn't survive at all in the Agave house, where it is hot and never watered, but it has been magnificent. It started flowering in autumn last year and hasn't stopped since. It was sprawling all over the floor, so I wrapped it up and tied it to a post. Still flowering, I am astonished and amazed. Among all the Corydalis I have tried, this accidental arrival is the one I was looking for.
There is a peculiar blank state of mind needed to grow things without expectation just to see what happens. Perhaps that is the proper use for cornflakes.